Numbers 15:32-36 - OT Stoning for sin & NT Dignity of all Humanity - love


#1

Hi,

How do I reconcile that God ordered people to be stoned to death in the OT for sin with the NT Dignity of all Humanity. I know that all throughout life, even OT, they would have had some sort of Dignity of all Humanity teaching. Please help me to understand.

Also, I am trying to better understand why my image of God is different in the OT verses NT. The latter being more of love? I have read some things in the past, but still cannot understand why God would allow stoning for disobeying Him and picking up sticks? God forgive for laughing, but it just sounds funny. I don't understand where is the love for His people.

Thank you,
Brian

Numbers 15:32-36

Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. They put him in custody, because it had not been made plain what should be done to him. And the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” And all the congregation brought him outside the camp, and stoned him to death with stones, as the Lord commanded Moses.


#2

Well, for a Jew to work on the Sabbath was a form of sacrilege akin to giving God the middle finger and saying that you have something more important to do than honoring Him. The modern equivalent is committing a mortal sin by deliberately skipping Mass in favor of doing unnecessary work, or something along those lines.

It needs to be remembered that, just because a text is in the Bible, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's of a primarily religious character. Song of Songs never mentions God, for instance. With large portions of the Torah what we have is basically a national legal code. And it's because it's a nation's legal code and not some divine absolute that Jesus can later abrogate it. Of course, the Law is of a religious character, but that's how all legal codes were in those times. Nations had their national gods. And if you want to spiritualize it, the Law can be seen as a disciplinary measure. It was harsh because the Jews weren't very mature yet and they needed constant reminding of God's standards. Also, it served to show us just how fallen we are.

Life has inherent dignity, but at the same time the right to life can be forfeited. Even in the Christian era rulers had the right to execute people. And they still do according to Church teaching.

Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho mentions some of this.


#3

Jesus started confession, and the Eucarist.

the OT had the ark of the covenant, that the people carried and was the True presence of God..
Jesus brought us the Eucarist and instilled it as the True Presence of God today, what the ark was, the Eucarist is today. and has elimated the ark from the picture.
, and told the Jewish to change to forgive others, to not stone them to death as in the past.

the Jewish were being asked to give up their ways and change by Jesus, and that was extremely tough to accept, one is the lending of money and the domination of others to not forgive them, but to make other their slaves and they dominated over by the issue of lending of money, to bring them to be owned by.

from a pratical stand point, how would you deal with people that became angry and violent, and defiant when you were out in the desert, that person who rebells by that free will? dealing with such left stoning as a way, setting an example for the rest to shape up.

actually working on the sabbeth is making your work come to be your MEANS... and that recognizes today when people work on Sunday they cant take time out for God as their means to existing, but rather their work is their means to be..


#4

The way that it has been described to me is that - After the fall and the expulsion from the Garden, man fell deeper into depravity...Look at the fact that God came to a point of destroying all men except Noah and his family....

So - from those earliest times - God's efforts have been directed toward helping us grow and mature. He did this by introducing first external laws that put limits on things that previously had been unlimited. Looking at such OT laws in this light one sees that the law does not force stoning where forgiveness would otherwise have been granted...Instead the Law places limitations and requirements that must be met before a person might be put to death.

When in the fullness of time Jesus came with the new law and the new covenant...of Love...God was asking us to take yet another step forward. He sees us as being mature enough to, by His grace, embrace an interior law gives even greater light to the exterior law of the OT.

So - the OT and the NT do not stand in contrast or conflict, but rather they are a progression.

Hope this helps.

Peace
James


#5

[quote="GodHeals, post:1, topic:311544"]
Hi,

How do I reconcile that God ordered people to be stoned to death in the OT for sin with the NT Dignity of all Humanity. I know that all throughout life, even OT, they would have had some sort of Dignity of all Humanity teaching. Please help me to understand.

Also, I am trying to better understand why my image of God is different in the OT verses NT. The latter being more of love? I have read some things in the past, but still cannot understand why God would allow stoning for disobeying Him and picking up sticks? God forgive for laughing, but it just sounds funny. I don't understand where is the love for His people.

Thank you,
Brian

[/quote]

The first problem is that many of the things that are thought to be "harsh" are merely misunderstandings of the Jewish scriptures

some examples:

A Christian reads Judges and believes that a man turned his daughter into a human sacrifice

Of course, she could not be sacrificed, but she also could not work in any capacity, or marry, or be "used for breeding", for the rest of her life. She lived the rest of her life in seclusion, devoted herself to prayer, never married or had children and never knew a man.

Similarly, an "eye for an eye" in Judaism is not mutilation of a person who has blinded another (nor impunity to the offender if he happens to be blind) but monetary compensation

The Christian reads of a "death penalty" for a particular sin, but has no knowledge of the almost impossible conditions (committing the act in front of at least two witnesses, being warned and continuing to commit the act despite the warning) which made a conviction in a Jewish court virtually impossible. Nor do they have knowledge of the Jewish Sages attitudes against the death penalty Often they do not differentiate between a "Divine punishment" from God and one to be carried out here on earth.

However the main problem,the basis for these and similar threads concerning God in the Jewish scriptures as opposed to the God of the Christian scriptures, has to do both with the different concept of God in the two religions as well as the differences in the perceived relationship between God and man.

God in Judaism has no limitations. The same God who has absolute powers of forgiveness, mercy and justice, also has the absolute power to decide not to forgive, that justice and the benefit of mankind and creation, demand that there will be no forgiveness. This is something that is very difficult, if not impossible for the Christian to accept.

Judaism demands the conscience choice of obligations and responsibilities, it demands the understanding of consequences.

The relationship of the Christian to his God is similar to that of a child to a loving father. No matter what the child does, he/she knows that if they are truly sorry, the father will always forgive them, will always love them.


#6

Chosen People...

Excellent explanation...Thanks.

Peace
James


#7

This is my own personal observation and is to be taken as such, and not as any authoritative or supported theory:

I have thought much about the seeming dichotomy of God in the Old Testament and the New. I have noticed that, before the Word was made flesh, and His sacrifice complete, the justice of God was enacted in a far more temporal way than during and after Christ.

God is unchanging, of course, and He has always been both just and merciful, but in the Old Testament, while men awaited eternal judgement, God's justice and mercy were made manifest in a visible and physical way. Sin led to death. Repentance was met with mercy, and life was spared. Once men were liable to eternal judgement, the justice and mercy of God, still unchanged, was (and is) applied to the fullness of what He intended. Sin still leads to death, and the penitent and contrite heart is still shown mercy, but in an eternal way, rather than a temporal way.

Again, this is merely an observation! It is entirely my unsupported theory! It is not dogma and I have no sources to back it up. Just know that God is unchanging, and if He did or ordered something, He had good reason for it.


#8

[quote="PeaceInChrist, post:7, topic:311544"]
This is my own personal observation and is to be taken as such, and not as any authoritative or supported theory:

I have thought much about the seeming dichotomy of God in the Old Testament and the New. I have noticed that, before the Word was made flesh, and His sacrifice complete, the justice of God was enacted in a far more temporal way than during and after Christ.

God is unchanging, of course, and He has always been both just and merciful, but in the Old Testament, while men awaited eternal judgement, God's justice and mercy were made manifest in a visible and physical way. Sin led to death. Repentance was met with mercy, and life was spared. Once men were liable to eternal judgement, the justice and mercy of God, still unchanged, was (and is) applied to the fullness of what He intended. Sin still leads to death, and the penitent and contrite heart is still shown mercy, but in an eternal way, rather than a temporal way.

Again, this is merely an observation! It is entirely my unsupported theory! It is not dogma and I have no sources to back it up. Just know that God is unchanging, and if He did or ordered something, He had good reason for it.

[/quote]

I like this....:thumbsup:

Peace
James


#9

This is tricky to answer so please excuse my long resposne. It is not something that can be answered with a short answer.

Israel was chosen for the sake of being a light to the nations, a Kingdom of Priests (Ex 19:6) to minister to the nations in fulfillment of the Covenant oath sworn to Abraham that through Abraham’s seed all the nations would be blessed.

“By myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, 18 and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Gen 22:16-19)

The Lord brought Israel out from Egypt and his plan was to prepare them for their call to be a light to the nations so that they could convert the nations. Unfortunately, after bringing Israel out into the wilderness all they did was moan and complain about how they were better off in Egypt and that God and Moses brought them out into the wilderness to kill them. They also went back to their Idolatry (Ex 32, Num 25). How can this stubborn and rebellious people possibly convert the nations? What is God to do? Should he just forget Israel and break his Covenant with Abraham? Should he forget about the Nations?

The Lord has to quarantine the Israelites and purge them from all this evil and teach them how to be holy.

In the context of Numbers 15 we read that there is a distinction made between willfully sinning “with a high hand”

30 But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. (Num 15:30)

and sinning unwittingly which could be atoned for and forgiven .

.27 “If one person sins unwittingly, he shall offer a female goat a year old for a sin offering. 28 And the priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the person who commits an error, when he sins unwittingly, to make atonement for him; and he shall be forgiven.

Then comes the story of the man gathering sticks which if read out of context can sound innocent enough. But clearly the context shows that we are supposed to read this as an act committed “with a high hand.” Inotherwords the man is doing this out of outright rebellion against the commandments, even though he knows the penalty (Ex 31:14-15).

This kind of evil could infect the camp and if this man is not brought to justice then the Israelites will think that they can get off with this kind of sinning which would stand in the way of God’s plan to bring the nations into his family. There is no choice but to purge this evil from the people of God and stoning was the common practice in those days (Num 8:26).

Having said all this. God does not want to have to have anyone executed. We see straight after this story that God gives the people a way to avoid sinning so that no one will have to die.

38 “Speak to the people of Israel, and bid them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put upon the tassel of each corner a cord of blue; 39 and it shall be to you a tassel to look upon and remember all the commandments of the LORD, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to go after wantonly. 40 So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. (Num 15:38-41).

In conclusion, this man knew what he was doing, he knew the penalty and he did it anyway. On the spiritual level, today many of us know the commandments, and many still willfully break them. This is called “mortal sin.” The punishment for which is spiritual death. The lesson we need to learn from this is that our God is HOLY, He loves us, He does not want us to sin, he wants us to be his children and a light to shine in this dark world and to be an example to those who have not yet come to conversion.

I am sorry my answer is so long but this is a question that does need to be thoroughly answered. I only hope my answers helps.

Thanks for reading.

Barry.


#10

You are absolutely correct in your understanding that the Torah differentiates between unintentional and intentional sin. In the case of unintentional sin it was possible to make a sacrifice. However, despite statements by Christianity to the contrary, in Judaism you could never offer a sacrifice for absolution from intentional sin. It is immoral, from a Jewish perspective, to think that you could intentionally sin and then be absolved by making a sacrifice. This can only be done by repentance. Thus in Numbers 15:30-31 we have the description of the punishment of כרת (keret) where the offender is cut off forever from the Jewish people and from God. This, for example, is the punishment in Judaism that is meted out to a Jew who breaks his/her eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people and converts (so you can see why Jews are so sensitive to proselytism). However, we must also look to the meaning of the words “his sin is upon him”. On the one hand, this refers to the fact that the corruption of the sin adheres to the soul and keeps it out of the World to Come. On the other hand, the term implies that this is only as long as the person does not repent which would remove the sin and punishment (Rashi).

We see that the punishment for blasphemy is not death (but excommunication and Divine punishment) and we understand the lack of knowledge of Judaism and Jewish law of the writers in the Christian scriptures of the alleged trial before the Sanhedrin of Jesus and his supposed conviction for the sin of blasphemy.

As to the case of the man who broke the Sabbath. The Torah speaks of the words “those who found him gathering wood”. In Judaism, as I pointed out in a previous post, the death penalty could be imposed only in the case of at least two witnesses actually seeing the act, giving warning to cease and the person deliberately ignoring the warning and continuing in the act.

Finally, we should also understand what is meant by the words “for it had not been clarified what should be done to him”. In Exodus 31:14 it was already stated that Sabbath desecration was a capital offense. Had this not been so the transgressor would not have been executed because part of the necessary warning to be given (see above) is notification of the gravity of the penalty. The meaning here is that the nature and procedure of the death penalty had not been clarified.


#11

Jerome, excellent observation regarding mortal sin during the Old Covenant.


#12

[quote="GodHeals, post:1, topic:311544"]
How do I reconcile that God ordered people to be stoned to death in the OT for sin with the NT Dignity of all Humanity. I know that all throughout life, even OT, they would have had some sort of Dignity of all Humanity teaching. Please help me to understand.

[/quote]

Our dignity is in our relationship with God, already disturbed by the primal sin of Adam. The bond with God was broken by breaking the Sabbath, and so the severity of the punishment was in proportion to the gravity of the crime.

Also, I am trying to better understand why my image of God is different in the OT verses NT. The latter being more of love?

When God became man he revealed himself to us more fully and delivered us from slavery to sin and death through his crucifixion. The Old Testament laws reflect the hardness of the Jewish people and of the morality of the times in general. Without these laws the Jews would have (re)turned to paganism. What is temporal punishment, for our own good, compared to eternal punishment in hell?


#13

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